Heat ‘Most Likely’ Sign 6-Time All-Star if P.J. Tucker Exits: NBA Exec

Blake Griffin

Getty Blake Griffin #2 of the Brooklyn Nets warms up prior to their NBA game against the Toronto Raptors at Scotiabank Arena on March 1, 2022 in Toronto, Canada.

While the door has succinctly on the Miami Heat possibly obtaining Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, there’s another Brooklyn Nets All-Star the franchise will have their eye on if they can’t retain forward P.J. Tucker for the 2022 NBA season.

An Eastern Conference executive told Heavy.com’s Sean Deveney that if Tucker leaves, the Heat will “most likely” revisit a free agent veteran that they’ve been linked to since last year, Blake Griffin.

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Miami was considered a top candidate to land Griffin before he obtained a buyout from the Detroit Pistons, but the six-time All-Star ultimately signed a one-year, $2.6 million contract with the Nets in March 2021, which means the 33-year-old power forward enters this offseason as an unrestricted free agent.

“The thing about Blake is, it is obvious he can’t do much of what he used to do, even when he was in Detroit. But he made a big, big impression around the league with the way he played against Boston, even though it was just a couple of games,” the Eastern Conference exec told Heavy.

“But he was flying around, throwing his body around, taking charges, hitting the floor. He had a care factor that was off the charts, and a lot of teams took notice. This is an All-Star and a former MVP candidate and he is sacrificing himself. As your 10th man on a minimum deal, you take that. It raises everyone’s level.

“If the Heat don’t bring back Tucker, they’re going to replace him with multiple pieces most likely. And they’ve always liked Blake, going back to when he was a star, there was talk about him going there in free agency. He is a good veteran piece they can use at the right times.”

The Heat Aren’t Going to Make the Same Mistake With Tucker as They Did With Jae Crowder

PJ Tucker

GettyP.J. Tucker #17 of the Miami Heat plays against the Detroit Pistons at Little Caesars Arena on November 23, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan.

After Tucker opted out of his $7.4 million player option for the 2022-23 season, the 37-year-old defensive stalwart immediately became one of the hottest free agents on the market. With the effects Jae Crowder’s exit still fresh in the front office’s mind, the Heat are likely brainstorming how they can afford to keep Tucker while also forming a contingency plan in case they come up short.

Sun Senitnel‘s Ira Winderman touched on this topic on Tuesday, June 28 when a reader suggested Miami should let Tucker walk if he’s looking for a multi-year deal at a higher salary because he’s “past his prime” and his “3-point efficiency was terrible in the second half of the season.”

While letting Tucker leave would be tough, so would be finding his replacement(s). “The Heat never found a replacement for Jae Crowder in 2020 free agency, when they viewed the Suns’ offer as overpriced,” Winderman wrote. “So it not only comes down to the player being lost but also the options for replacement.”

“And those options are limited this time around, particularly for the relatively nominal price point you are looking at with P.J. Tucker. I would have no issues with two years. Then, perhaps, some sort of compromise when it comes to how the third season would be guaranteed.”

Blake Griffin

GettyBlake Griffin #2 of the Brooklyn Nets dives for a loose ball against Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Utah Jazz during their game at Barclays Center on March 21, 2022.

As for Griffin, while he had a rough start to the 2021 season, shooting 24% from beyond the arc before the All-Star break, he finished the final eight games of the season shooting 43% on threes. Between his ability to draw charges, he tied the league lead for the second straight season, as reported by The Athletic’s Alex Schiffer.

The 6-foot-10 forward has also come to terms with the fact that he’s no longer a lead starter. Based Nets head coach Steve Nash’s comments on Griffin in April, he would be a natural fit with Heat Culture, willing to do whatever the team needs in order to win.

“He went from an All-Star player for the most part in his career to a role player with us, and he accepted it and, I think, attacked that role,” Nash told Schiffer. “His ability to throw his body around, take charges, rebound, set good screens, do all the little things, it’s been outstanding.”

The Heat Remain Contenders to Keep Tucker

P.J. Tucker

GettyP.J. Tucker #17 of the Miami Heat shoots against the Brooklyn Nets during their game at Barclays Center on October 27, 2021.

Heat President Pat Riley and head coach Erik Spoelstra have made it abundantly clear that they want to keep Tucker in Miami. Riley called him “a cornerstone,” during his end-of-season press conference and said, “I’d love to have Tuck back next year. He’s part of our core… He’s special.”

While the Philadelphia 7e6ers are reportedly strong contenders to steal him away, there’s still a very strong chance Tucker remains in Miami. The Heat should be able to find a way to offer him a salary up to $8.5 million for the 2022 NBA season.

Miami Herald’s Anthony Chiang suggested that the Heat will struggle to offer the full MLE if they are looking to retain forward Caleb Martin, who will become a restricted free agent this summer. Chiang tweeted, tweeted, “Heat could also offer $10.3 million non-taxpayer midlevel exception to re-sign P.J. Tucker, but that would hard cap Miami at the apron. Also, would eliminate an important resource that could be used to bring back Caleb Martin.”

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